DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) – “The city of Decatur might be considered the video gaming capital of the state of Illinois,” City Council member David Horn said.
City leaders aim to change that reputation and slow the growth of gambling in Decatur. According to Horn, residents are losing roughly 40% more money on video game gambling today than they were just a few years ago.
City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a six month moratorium on issuing new video gaming licenses because members like Horn have noticed a major increase in the number of gambling establishments popping up, and how people are losing more money than ever.
“We really need to talk about activities that will positively impact people’s lives, and improve the quality of our lives. And video gaming is not one of those things,” Horn said.
Three and a half years ago, Horn recalls 85 video gaming establishments in Decatur. As of November, there are more than 90. The rapid growth of gambling, he said, has spiked worry of bankruptcy, addiction and crime.
“And the city of Decatur has yet to explore what those societal costs are, relative to the taxes that we receive from video gaming,” he said.
Last year, he said people lost more than $46 million gambling – money the community will never recover because most goes to the pockets of out-of-state business owners.
“This is of great concern because Decatur is one of the poorest cities in Illinois,” Horn said.
That’s why the city is spending the next six months brainstorming before handing out new licenses.
“Hopefully on the next item on the agenda, we’re going to take some steps to try and rein in this beast before it gets any bigger,” Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said.
The problem is, two new applications are already in the process of approval, including one for a laundromat with gambling machines in the middle of a neighborhood Horn said is “impoverished.”
“It is, quite frankly, embarrassing that this is the outcome of that agreement,” he said.
Other council members chimed in, saying the machines are big, obnoxious and everywhere. The city is now asking itself how many licenses it should be able to issue. Horn said even though current establishments can stay, he hopes to see a decrease over time.
“I think that discussion is about three and a half years in the making, but I’m glad that we’re having it now,” Horn said.
According to Horn, the numbers also show: per capita loss on video game gambling has grown to $662. In total, a few years ago, that was $2.7 million lost per month. Now, it’s $3.8 million a month. The number of gambling machines across the city has grown 12%.